Fox News contributors Michelle Malkin and Sandy Rios have made false claims about the science behind Michelle Obama's promotion of breast-feeding.
Malkin Falsely Claims Breast-Feeding Is Not Associated With Lower Obesity Rates Into Adulthood
Malkin Claims "Health Advantages" Of Breast-Feeding Are "Short-Lived." In a post titled "Super Nanny: First Lady Of Junk Science," Fox News Contributor Michelle Malkin attacked Michelle Obama's statement that "kids who are breastfed longer have a lower tendency to be obese." Malkin said that "the literature is inconclusive or demonstrates that the health advantages of bosom over bottle are short-lived." From Malkin's post:
As part of her "Let's Move!" anniversary celebration this week, Mrs. Obama rolled out a new breastfeeding initiative because "kids who are breastfed longer have a lower tendency to be obese." She made her assertion to an invitation-only group of handpicked reporters who were barred from asking questions about her scientific conclusions. It's not healthy to challenge Super Nanny, you see.
So, what do studies on breastfeeding and babies' weight actually say? Rebecca Goldin, Ph.D., research director of George Mason University's Statistical Assessment Service, points out that the literature is inconclusive or demonstrates that the health advantages of bosom over bottle are short-lived:
"Indeed, there is little evidence that using formula causes obesity. There is a correlation between formula use and obesity among babies and children ... though this correlation is not consistent in all studies. Some of these studies show a relationship in only some demographics and not others. Others show that the disadvantage of bottle-feeding and/or formula mostly goes away by the time a child is about 4 years old.
"The result is that we cannot discover whether breastfeeding is correlated with obesity because infant formula or bottle feeding leads to subsequent overeating or disposition to being overweight, or whether those parents who breastfeed are also more likely to offer their children green beans instead of French fries. Despite weak evidence, there is a lingering conviction that formula causes obesity among pediatricians and the press; if anything, the study about infants should make us reflect more carefully on this conclusion."
Alas, such nuance from Mrs. Obama and her unquestioning media water-carriers is scarcer than tofu at Taco Bell. [MichelleMalkin.com, 2/16/11]
Breast-Feeding Is Associated With Lower Risk Of Obesity In Childhood And Adulthood. From a systematic review of breast-feeding studies in developed countries prepared for the federal government:
Three meta-analyses of good and moderate methodological quality reported an association of breastfeeding and a reduction in the risk of obesity in adolescence and adult life compared with those who were not breastfed. One study reported the reduction in the risk of overweight/obesity in breastfeeders compared with non-breastfeeders was 24 percent (95% CI 14% to 33%); another study reported 7 percent (95% CI 1% to 12%). Both of these estimates took into account the role of potential confounders. Furthermore, they also showed that the magnitude of association decreased when more confounders were entered into the analyses. The third study used meta-regression and found a 4 percent reduction in the risk of being overweight in adult life for each additional month of breastfeeding in infancy. Overall, there is an association between a history of breastfeeding and a reduction in the risk of being overweight or obese in adolescence and adult life. One should be cautious in interpreting all these associations because of the possibility of residual confounding. [Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, April 2007, emphasis added]
Fox's Rios Falsely Claims Low Rate Of Breast-Feeding Is Only A "Problem" In "Black Community"
Rios: Low Rate Of Breast-Feeding Is "A Problem That Is Specifically In The Black Community." During Fox News' America Live, Fox News Contributor Sandy Rios said:
There's nothing wrong with promoting breastfeeding, I'm all in favor of that. But you have to remember that 75 percent of American women already breast-feed. We're talking about a problem that is specifically in the black community. And so for you to change federal law and IRS regulations and start forcing businesses to make accommodations for nursing women at their own expense, to promote it in the black community is the problem that I have with it. [Fox News, America Live, 2/15/11]
Only 12 Percent Of U.S. Infants Meet Medical Breast-Feeding Recommendation. From the Cambridge Health Alliance:
While nearly 75 percent of all U.S. mothers initiate breastfeeding, only 32 percent are breastfeeding exclusively at three months. Just 12 percent of U.S. infants meet the medical recommendation to breastfeed exclusively for six months. Only 22 percent are breastfeeding at all at one year. In comparison, other countries, such as Sweden and Kenya, fare much better. [Cambridge Health Alliance, 4/05/10]
Only 35 Percent Of White Infants, 40 Percent Of Mexican-American Infants Are Breast-Fed For Six Months. From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
The rates of breastfeeding at 6 months of age were computed for each birth year cohort using information from NHANES 1999-2004 for infants 6 months of age and older. The NHANES 2005-2006 data were not included in the analysis because the sample size for the birth year cohort was too small to produce reliable estimates.
Overall, the rates of breastfeeding at 6 months of age were significantly higher among Mexican-American (40%) and non-Hispanic white infants (35%) compared with non-Hispanic black infants (20%), but the rates for Mexican-American and non-Hispanic white infants were not significantly different. [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, April 2008]